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Thursday, 26 September 1912

Senator FINDLEY - They were paid so much an hour, and they reached the maximum amount laid down by Mr. Chapman by working excessively long hours.

Senator Sayers - Where was this done?

Senator FINDLEY - I am informed that it was done in certain sugar districts in Queensland.

Senator Sayers - Surely you can tell us where it was done, instead of making a bald statement !

Senator FINDLEY - I have made the statement, and I believe that it is correct. I am not in a position, perhaps, to give any names, but if I make this statement definitely, and back it up at a later stage, perhaps the honorable senator will be satisfied that my statement is correct.

Senator Sayers - You should follow up the statement, by giving the names.

Senator FINDLEY - I was informed that these conditions were not rigidly observed by some growers in certain districts in Queensland.

Senator Clemons - In what respect was the departure? Was more or less always paid?

Senator FINDLEY - I am informed that, instead of the growers paying the men 22s. 6d. a week, and finding them, they paid the men so much an hour and found them, and the men were not paid for any , hours which they did not work. Recently an instruction was issued by the Minister that the men were to be paid during wet and dry weather, that they were not to lose any time. He also laid it down that not more than 48 hours a week should be worked in the fields, and he increased the wages of the men very considerably.

Senator Clemons - The practice of not paying men when wet weather makes it impossible for them to work is surely followed by the present Government in many cases to-day. There is nothing novel in that.

Senator Chataway - Do the Government pay the men engaged on the telephone works when it is wet, and they cannot work ?

Senator FINDLEY - If on the men coming to their work they are not able to commence, and are not allowed to leave the place they are paid. The men in the cane-fields of Queensland are paid now for the wet and dry periods that they are engaged in the work.

Senator Clemons - In regard to Commonwealth employment generally, if the weather absolutely prohibits the continuance of work, do you still pay them?

Senator FINDLEY - If men are brought to their work in the morning, or afternoon, and the conditions are such that they are unable to commence, or if they commence, and the weather gets bad as the day goes on, and they are knocked off, but are told to remain on the works, they are paid for the time they have been there, whether working or not.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator means that if the men start and work for an hour, and for the rest of the working day the weather absolutely prohibits the possibility of work, they are still paid ?

Senator FINDLEY - If they are kept on the works, yes. The overseer can send them off if he thinks that the weather will not clear up. But if he is under the impression that the weather will clear up, and desires them to remain on the works, they are detained and paid for the time;

Senator Millen - In this Bill you take that discretion away from the sugar-growers.

Senator FINDLEY - We have taken away a good deal of the discretionary power exercised by sugar-growers, because they have not done what we consider a fair thing by the employes. In regard to this Bill, the main point is that, at the present time, the bounty can be withheld by the Minister after the milling operations have been completed on the ground that fair and reasonable wages have not been paid. We want to alter that state of affairs. We want to take away from the Minister, no matter whether he be a Labour Minister or an Anti-Labour Minister, the power to draw up wage and industrial conditions pertaining to this or any other industry, but particularly this industry. We want ' the Minister to have the power to make an application to a Judge of the Arbitration Court, a Supreme Court, or an Industrial Court, for a declaration as to what a fair and reasonable wage is. When he has that power, no Minister will lay down what he considers to be fair and reasonable wages. The Court will be in a much better position than any Minister to regulate this industry, from the industrial point of view, because it will be its business to inquire into the industry from A to Z, and to lay down what it considers fair and reasonable wages.

Senator Clemons - The Court is a Parliament of one.

Senator FINDLEY - I consider that an Industrial Court is in a better position than Parliament to deal with industrial matters.

Senator Clemons - I do not, because it is doing purely parliamentary work.

Senator FINDLEY - I consider that it is in a much better position than any Minister of the Crown to deal with this industry in regard to wages and conditions generally.

Senator Millen - The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that the Parliament which created the Court was superior to the Court, and knew better than the Court. It was a different argument, then.

Senator FINDLEY - An Industrial Court has opportunities which no Minister possesses. It would be the business of the Court to visit different localities, to understand the conditions of the growers as well as the conditions of the workers, and to get sworn evidence on either side. Does my honorable friend mean to tell me that, in these circumstances, the Court will not be a better institution to deal with the sugar industry than any Minister of the Crown would be?

Senator Chataway - Is it not a fact that you are now taking away from the President of the Arbitration Court the right to refer the matter to the Judge of a Supreme Court, and allowing the Minister to do that?

Senator FINDLEY - No. At the pre- sent time, the Minister has power to make an application to a Judge of the Arbitration Court, a Judge of the Supreme Court, or an Industrial Court, as to what are fair and reasonable conditions. But he can only take that step after the completion of the milling operations, before the bounty is paid. This Bill provides that the Minister shall have an opportunity of applying to a Judge before the milling operations are completed, in order that both parties shall understand what wages are to be paid, and the grower will have an opportunity of claiming and obtaining his bounty.

Senator Chataway - You have missed my point. Under the Act of 1910 the Minister can apply to the President of the Arbitration Court, and the latter can refer the application to one or other of the authorities I mentioned; but now it is proposed that the Minister shall make the reference if he thinks fit.

Senator FINDLEY - This gives the Minister a wider opportunity in order to get an award in urgent cases.

Senator Millen - It gives the Minister a chance of picking his Judge !

Senator FINDLEY - He will have power to make application to the highest tribunal in the Commonwealth, and the probabilities are that he will make application to the President of the Arbitration, Court.

Senator Chataway - Or to a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Senator FINDLEY - In some cases it might be more convenient for the Minister to make application to a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Senator Chataway - Then the Minister admits that I am right - that the Government are altering the system.

Senator FINDLEY - The alteration is so trifling and unimportant that the point need not be laboured.

Senator O'Keefe - Can the Minister tell us the meaning of the Latin words in clause 2 ? Why was not the meaning expressed in plain English?

Senator FINDLEY - The meaning is pretty well known. It is, the necessary changes being made. I am not responsible for the wording of the Bill.

Senator Millen - The Minister is responsible for any measure that he presents here.

Senator FINDLEY - I have dealt with the main provisions of the measure, and 1 think honorable senators understand that it means giving a power to the Minister that he does not possess to-day, and the exercise of which in this manner will be in the interests of the growers, and particularly of the workers, who have not, in my opinion, received a fair deal at the hands of many of the men engaged in the sugar industry.

Debate (on motion by Senator Chataway) adjourned.

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